Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Australia's crazy house auction system

So you want to move house in Australia.
The majority of houses here are sold at auction. The effect of this that you as the seller spend four or five weeks wondering about what you will actually get for your current property. This is hard on the nerves. Then to make things worse, you need to start looking at properties that you would like to buy, but you do not know how much you will get for your place and you do not know (other than a price guide figure) what you will need to pay for your new place. Some agents set the guide price deliberately low in order to get plenty of bids at the auction. I read of a recent auction with over 60 bids. Most of the potential buyers had paid fees for building and pest inspections and having already spent this money, the agent is banking on them bidding above their original limit. The property actually sold for a figure that was 25% higher than the guide price and a lot of auction attendees must have felt duped.
I attended a house auction 12 months ago and I found the whole atmosphere was very intimidating and I was only there as an observer. The auction took place in a public room and a dozen properties were being sold. As a property was being auctioned, the auctioneer could be like your best friend if you were bidding and trying to convince you to up your bid. Once you placed a bid, the auctioneer was suddenly your worst enemy as he was telling someone else that they only had to outbid your bid by another 10k and the property would be theirs. Once they placed a bid, the auctioneer switched allegiance to another bidder and so on. All around the room were about 15 agents all in their best business attire. During the auction they would walk around the room and up to potential bidders trying to coerce them into increasing or placing a bid.
Only about 25% of the properties were sold as some had already been sold prior or had been withdrawn. I walked away from that auction stunned at the intimidation. Not good if your are of a nervous disposition.
None of this sounds very good but in practice it is even worse. This is because all agents here demand an upfront marketing fee. This is a significant amount of money that will be lost if you do not eventually sell. On top of this the agent will want a percentage fee on the sale proceeds.
So, if you want weeks of nerve wracking tension and to risk significant sums of money without knowing where you may be living, then try moving house in Australia.
I come from England and love a lot of things about Australia, but this is not one of them.
If an English style estate agent who works on a "no sale, no fee" basis came to Australia and employed some local people with local knowledge they would clean up.


Last week in Sydney

Oh dear, autumn has arrived, the clocks are changing next weekend, bringing on one hour less evening light and I will be heading back to the uk.

I was awoken early at 5am last Sunday as a lot of vehicles arrived outside to set up an event. It turned out to be the 'Kayak for Kids' day, where they all kayak down the harbour. Unfortunately the weather was not up to much and it would rain on and off for much of the day.
Getting ready

The kids were given lots of basic verbal instruction including trying to make sure that they did not start too hard just using their arms, and be worn out by the time that they reached the harbour bridge (only a few hundred metres away).
When the start took place at 9am a surprisingly large number of kayaks started off in the wrong direction. I hope they made it eventually.


Early in the week, some army helicopters were practising exercises that may be carried out in the event of a terrorist attack in Sydney. Here is one of the helicopters.

There were four helicopters involved, and they were coming in low across the harbour before climbing to pass over the harbour bridge followed by a rapid approach to the cbd. Last year these exercises were going on regularly, but this year I have only seen it twice in four months.

There has been the occasional flyby of a lone army helicopter over the last few months. Maybe there are budget cuts. There is always plenty of civil helicopter activity around the harbour each day.

Meanwhile back at sea level everything was going along as normal.

Shame that it is nearly time to go overseas and I will miss the view. At least I know that I will be back when spring returns.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Collaroy to Manly coastal walk

A couple of days ago I decided to do the coastal walk from Collaroy to Manly. I was using a book of walks and it describes the walk as 11.5 kms long and in the easy category. As it was a beautiful sunny day, I packed a couple of cereal bars, an apple and some water in my daypack and set out. I was using public transport so at 10:30 I was waiting at McMahons Point (where I live) for the bus.
View from McMahons Point

One hour and three buses later I arrived at Collaroy Beach. As the last bus that I used was a L88 (limited stop) it took me a half a mile further than the actual start point, so I had a short walk back. The temperatures were mid 20's C and there was blue sky with a light breeze so it was perfect walking conditions. I started up my Garmin gps so that it would record a breadcrumb trail of my route. The walk starts at Anzac Avenue that takes you to the Fisherman's Beach where you hang a right and walk along by Long Reef Golf club.

Looking north from Fisherman's Beach.

You walk up to a lookout out at Long Reef and as you approach it you start to see views of Dee Why beach across the golf course to your right.

From the lookout you can look south and see the Manly heads in the far distance (Manly is our destination).

As you walk passed the golf course, the path is easy and downhill.

You switch onto a boardwalk to get to Long Reef Beach. Time to take your footwear off for a very pleasant beach walk and paddle.

The beach becomes Dee Why beach and the surfing conditions look good. You do have to wade across the shallow river that goes into Dee Why lagoon. The book does not mention this and maybe the river does not exist at certain times of the tide.

At the southern end of the beach I decided to take advantage of the many cafes and stop for lunch. A cajun chicken salad washed down with a James Boags lager was really very enjoyable.

After lunch you continue south and soon reach the rock baths were there is a seawater swimming pool and from here I watched some of the surfers having fun.

You now need to follow a coastal bush path. The path is quite narrow and rocky and involves a fair ascent so I am not sure that I would call it easy, but perfectly manageable by anyone who is reasonably fit. You walk up to the Dee Why Head where you can look back towards Long Reef.

The path threads its way between the coastline and some expensive looking residences for the well heeled of NSW. You also get some good cliff views.

Eventually Curl Curl beach comes into view.

It is paddling time again and Curl Curl is a lovely beach.

The surf looks fascinating but is difficult to photograph. I took some movie to capture the full effect but have not included it here. A great photograph was let slip when about fifty youngsters all in blue were running up the beach towards me. However, they were schoolgirls in their pe kit and taking a photo could be misconstrued so that was one action shot I did not take. Whilst standing videoing the surf, I was caught out by an extra large wave and the bottom part of my shorts got a good soaking.

At the end of Curl Curl beach there is another rock baths and here you take another coastal cliff path (this time it is a proper pathway)over the headland. You soon drop back down to sea level to reach Freshwater Beach.

After crossing Freshwater Beach there is a sharp ascent up a zig-zag pathway over Queenscliff. Over the crest you arrive at Bridge Street and descend to the bridge that takes you over the entrance to Manly lagoon. Just over the bridge you can get onto the promenade that takes you the full length (1.25 kms) of Manly Beach to The Corso. The sun was now sinking in the west and the cloud that had been just inland all day was starting to cast a shadow over Manly Beach.

Once you reach the Corso there are plenty of cafes where you can satisfy your appetite but I decided to just walk the few hundred metres across this spit of land to the ferry terminal. Here I caught the 4:15pm ferry to Circular Quay.

Then another short ferry trip back to McMahons Point and I was home. It had been a truly excellent and enjoyable walk. I'm glad I did it and will always remember it.
If you have Google Earth and want to see my route click here

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Quiet days

Had a quiet few days just pottering.

I saw a traditional wooden sailing boat sail past the point

I went and watched some cricket at the SCG

The weather was not great so these were in use later.

The sun did put in a brief appearance.

A stroll in the nearby park.

Checking the pumps.

Opera at the end of the rainbow.

On the bush path to Taronga Zoo.

He was not going to move.

You can follow the coastal path to Bradley's Head.

Quite a large eastern frilled water dragon.

Government House.

The Manly ferry overtakes us.

Part of the YouTube symphony orchestra.


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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Been walkabout

It has been mixed weather over the last few days during which I seen a few interesting things and visited a few places around Sydney.
Firstly a load of guys (and gals) on Harley's turned up near where I live. They were having their photo taken. Shame it was a rather gloomy Sunday

Next, having spent a few days at the Barangaroo wharf, the cruise liner Deutschland left with very loud announcements playing over the tannoy. I had an overwhelming urge to stand to attention as it passed my window.

The next day the weather started to improve and the fireboat escorted in the next liner to dock at Barangaroo.

It was Silver Spirit and I recognised it as being the liner that got to many New Zealand ports just ahead of the one I was on. The pilot boat got bored and decided to go around in circles.

With the sunshine back I decided to go and take a few closeups of a well known building. Can you tell which one it is.

Curved glass

Oh well, I've given it away now.

Later that day I went a place with a bandstand.

On a Saturday it was time to watch cricket at my favourite oval although the weather was poor again.

On Monday the sun was back so I went just about as far East of Sydney as you can go.

On Tuesday I went for a walk that took in a boathouse.

and a Scottish Castle. It was a beautiful day.


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